Her name is Lauren, a 23-year-old girl who lives in the American state of New York City. Lauren isn’t like everyone else, she doesn’t make any rubbish. None whatsoever, she’s awesome! There’s not one black bin bag in sight, offers nothing to the local landfill. Nothing.
As you would have thought, she gets the usual stereotypes like being called “a hippie”, and in extreme cases, even a liar!
The “zero waste” life wasn’t always her way of living, but she made a revolutionary change, and here’s her remarkable story.
Around three years ago, while studying as an Environmental Studies major at NY University, Lauren starting making the change, protesting against big oil, and acting as president of a club that hosted weekly talks on environmental topics. She thought she was the mega environmentalist that was totally fighting “the man”, but had to live with her grandma branding her a real “treehugger.” She recalls everyone thinking of her as the sustainability girl, so that meant Lauren was totally doing her share for the earth, right?
Well in a sense yes, but if you asked Lauren she would say we were thinking WRONG!
Lauren refers to one such time during her days at NYU: “In one of my classes, there was another student who always brought a plastic bag containing a plastic clamshell full of food, a plastic water bottle, plastic cutlery, and a bag of chips. Class after class I watched her throw it all in the garbage, and I got so angry! I scoffed and sneered, but I never actually said or did anything. I just got mad.”
She continued: “One day I was particularly upset after class and went home to make dinner and try to forget about it, but when I opened my refrigerator I froze. I realized that every item I had in there was wrapped or packaged, one way or another, in plastic.
This was the first time in my life that I felt like I was able to look at myself and say, “YOU HYPOCRITE.” I was the green girl, not the plastic girl! What had I been doing my entire life? It was in that moment I made the decision to eliminate all plastic from my life.”
There was the moment it dawned on Lauren that, quitting plastic meant learning to make all of her packaged products for herself.
To understand what this meant means you have to look at the broader picture. We’re not just talking food packaging and the like, this included everything from toothpaste to cleaning products, as well as a plethora of things you would have had no clue about how to make. Lauren turned to online research in order to learn how to make much of the things she needed to replace the plastic in her life. It was during this online research that she came across a blog called Zero Waste Home. It documented the life of Bea Johnson, wife and mother of two children who all live a zero-waste life in California.
By now Lauren had already eradicated almost all plastic from her life. Her thought was that, “If a family of four can live a zero-waste lifestyle, I, as a (then) 21-year-old single girl in NYC, certainly can.” So at this point the so-called sustainability girl took a giant, extended leap.
Packaged products being bought, no more! Taking her own bags and jars to fill with bulk products at the supermarket? That got the green light. She stopped buying new clothes, and shopped only for second-hand purchases. She kept up the making all of her own personal care and cleaning products. Downsizing was a key factor too. She removed all the clutter from her life significantly by selling, donating, or giving away surplus things in her life, such as all but one of her six identical spatulas, 10 pairs of jeans she’d not tried on since her days in high school, along with an absolute abundance of decorative items that had no significance to her at all.
Lauren found that she then, most importantly, began planning potentially wasteful situations, such as saying “NO” to things like straws in cocktails at a bars, to plastic or paper bags at the shops, and to other little things like receipts.
This wasn’t something that happened for Lauren overnight, not by a longshot.
This developed over more than a year and required a significant amount of effort. The most tasking part for Lauren was taking a hard look at herself in the mirror, at the girl who was an environmental studies major, the shining beacon of sustainability, and then realising that she didn’t live in a way that aligned with her values of living.
She came to realise that that while she genuinely cared about a lot of things, she was failing to embody her philosophies. Once Lauren was able to accept that, it paved the way for her to change, and since that time her life has been better with each day that passes. We’ve picked out three simple, yet poignant ways in which Lauren’s life has changed for the better since the moment she went ‘trash free’:
1. Saving money
Lauren says she now makes a grocery list whenever she heads out to go shopping, which means being prepared and not grabbing expensive items on impulse. Furthermore, buying food in bulk means that she is not paying a premium for packaging. The matter of clothes now mean that Lauren never buys new clothes either; she only shops for secondhand clothes and gets her garments at a heavily discounted price as a result.
2. Eating more healthily better
Because Lauren now purchases unpackaged foods, she says her unhealthy food choices are now really limited, which is obviously good all round. Instead, she eats a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, bulk whole grains, as well as her pick of seasonal, local food, since farmers markets offer amazing unpackaged produce- it simply doesn’t get much better than that does it folks?
3. Lauren is happier
Prior to adopting her zero-waste lifestyle, Lauren would constantly find herself rushing off to the supermarket before it closed buying stuff she didn’t need, and because she didn’t shop properly, she would order takeaways (haven’t we all), because she didn’t have food.
But not now! Now her typical week consists of a single trip to the shop to buy all of the ingredients she needs. By the way, this trip isn’t just for acquiring food, it’s also for beauty and cleaning products. This is down to the fact that all of the things she now uses can be made with simple, everyday ingredients. Not only is it easier and stress free, it’s healthier!
Lauren started out thinking it would just mean not taking out her rubbish on a weekly basis. But what was at first a lifestyle decision became a blog, Trash is for Tossers, which then became a facilitator for conversing with interesting, like-minded people, not to mention making friends too.
Fast-forward to now and her life choice has blossomed. She’s left her great post-graduate job as a Sustainability Manager for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection so that she could start her very own zero-waste company, The Simply Co. This is where she creates hand-made products she then sells, all of which she learned to produce over the past two years living a rubbish-free existence.
Anyone who loves visiting luxury camping breaks as a holiday choice will no doubt appreciate what Lauren has done with her life and how remarkable her change has been- we salute you Lauren!